Speech by Mr. Louis Ng Kok Kwang, MP for Nee Soon GRC at the Second Reading of the Jurong Town Corporation (Amendment) Bill [Bill No. 28/2017]
Sir, I am encouraged by this Bill which will help SMEs. These amendments were first announced in last year and I understand that the discussion on consolidation has been going on between HDB and JTC for a few years now.
JTC has done well over the past few decades to serve the needs of our business community. As a strategic developer, some recent successes include the setting up of innovative spaces like JTC Launchpad, and strategic clustering of specialised spaces for industries such as cleantech and biomedicals. With a larger supply of industrial space in its arsenal, I believe it will be able to enhance its support for businesses.
Businesses will also benefit administratively, as they would only need to contact one single agency to access public sector industrial facilities and spaces. Tenants transferred under JTC will also find it easier to expand in adjacent spaces, as there will be options available.
Sir, notwithstanding the benefits brought about by this Bill, I would like to seek a few clarifications.
Uncertainty over rental prices and tenancy renewal
Firstly, there has been some uncertainty from the business community about whether or not a change in landlord (from HDB to JTC) would result in any changes on the ground for tenants. Of primary concerns are changes in rental prices and tenancy renewal.
I appreciate that JTC has confirmed that there will be no changes in rental prices under the current tenancies, which will continue under JTC.
Can I ask the Minister if there are any tenants who will have their tenancy expiring soon and whether in negotiating their new tenancies under JTC, there will be an increase in their rental prices? Can I also ask if there will be any other changes the tenants will face following the transfer to JTC?
Redevelopment of newly-transferred properties
Secondly, some of HDB’s industrial properties are older and of lower land-use intensity. Is the Ministry able to share if there are plans to redevelop these properties, upon transferral to JTC, in order to maximise their plot ratio? I understand that some of these older properties are low-rise, single-storey buildings occupying plots in prime locations.
Are there any divestment plans?
Thirdly, some of the tenants are naturally concerned about JTC’s divestment plans for the properties that will be transferred to them. Many are aware that JTC had previously divested a portfolio of properties to a private trust sponsored by Mapletree. Some of the comments I’ve received on Facebook said that the tenants’ rental prices were increased when Mapletree took over.
I appreciate that JTC has confirmed that there are no divestment plans. However, can I can ask the Minister if there is a timeframe for this and whether this decision of not having a divestment plan will be reviewed annually or is one that is cast in stone.
Sir, I believe that the business community will be better-served with these clarifications. That said, I thank the Ministry for this much-awaited Bill as it streamlines our support for businesses, and I stand in support of it.